Rolling Lawnchairs – a DC Bentabout

Every Memorial Day motorcyclists descend on DC as part of an event called Rolling Thunder. If you live in DC, you can plan on traffic tie ups and long waits at restaurants and crowded taverns. DC residents have learned to go with the flow when these sorts of things happen. (Except parents who are trying to get to day care before the overtime charges hit. The words “road rage” do not do it justice.)

With the Washington Nationals out of town and a hike already under my belt this weekend, it was time for a long ride. I decided to do a bikeabout on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent.  A bikeabout has no destination. It’s just a meander during which I take a ton of pictures using my point and shoot camera.

I wanted to check out the renovations to the Rock Creek trail. So I headed to DC. The MVT was a zoo, as it always is on nice days on the weekend.  I took my time. Near the beltway I saw Grace as she was headed the opposite way. I don’t know if she recognized me. (She’s never seen me on a recumbent before.)

The tourists had yet to meet critical mass in Old Town Alexandria. I paid close attention to the road ahead and managed to miss a tall ship docked at the southern end of harbor. (Thanks to Emilia who took an Instagram picture and brought it to my attention.)

I stopped at Gravelley Point park near National Airport. Typically, this place is packed on the weekends. Not today. I breezed through.

When I got into DC I was shocked that there were no crowds to contend with. The same cannot be said for the Rock Creek Trail. “Hey, let’s go down to the trail and stand in the middle and talk. We’re important people, you know.”

Must not kill.

The trail was mostly its old self. In parts it was so narrow and worn out that it would accommodate one way traffic only. When I did encounter sections that had been renovated, I was very impressed. Wider. Smoother. Straighter. With new wooden fencing. I can’t wait until it’s done.

Once clear of the trail I had a chance to enjoy Beach Drive which, for much of its length, is closed to cars on weekends and holidays. As I bombed up toward Chevy Chase, I was passed by Mike, a.k.a. @rattlingfender. Mike hosts the official Rootchopper pit stop at the 50 States Ride. I swear I do not pay him for this.

I stopped at the Rock Creek trestle because I like to ride my bike above the tree tops.

Time to head home. I took the Georgetown Branch Trail to Bethesda Row. Normally, I stop for lunch but today I just wanted to get home so I turned on to the Capital Crescent Trail. It was packed. Every time I see it like this I think: if you think a bike trail is a bad thing for your neighborhood, you’re nuts.

I never really had the chance to get any speed going. Every time I got Big Nellie up to cruising speed I had to slow to a crawl because of congestion.

The ride back home featured a strange yellow orb in the sky. What’s up with that?

Also, Gravelley Point Park had filled up. I think they only allow clueless people to use the park on the weekends. One cyclist simply stopped cold in the middle of the trail. No reason.

After the park, the trail squeezes between the Parkway and a secondary runway at the airport. As I approached the squeeze point, a bush was being blown all over the place. The wind was the backwash from a jet about to take off. Being on a recumbent kept me beneath the worst of the blast.

The ride through Old Town was just insane. Cars and bikes and people going every which way. Nobody following any kind of traffic rules. I remarked to another cyclist “This is like being in a video game.” He agreed.

After Old Town, there was nothing but sunny skies and tailwinds. Not a bad way to end a 50-mile holiday jaunt.

For the complete story check out my Flickr album.

 

 

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Keys Gap to Buzzard Rocks Overlook on the Appalachian Trail

Last night I pondered my Sunday choices: bike ride, bike ride to a Nationals baseball game, or hike. I decided on a hike guessing that there might be some rain during the game.

Last weekend I hiked from Keys Gap to Loudon Heights, heading north on the Appalachian Trail. This weekend I headed south toward Buzzard Rocks overloook. which held the hope of a view of the Shenandoah Valley.

The weather report was for temperatures in the 60Fs. And no rain. Well, there was rain but it mostly happened before I started making for a muddy track. There was a bit of rain in the middle of the hike but the tree canopy protected me.

I tried to avoid the mud but it was pointless. So I let the little boy in me out and I made my peace with the slop.

The trail here is much less rocky than the trail just to the north. Without the mud you could cover this trail lickety split.

There was quite a lot of traffic during my first 2 1/2 miles. Boy scouts. Groups of adults. They all looked like they had camped overnight. They didn’t seem strained by their packs so I assumed (correctly) that the terrain would be forgiving.

The only steep section had rock steps, easy to negotiate. And it was rather striking to look at.

Along the way I was treated to my favorite: ferns. I tried to plant ferns in my side yard. They all died within weeks. Ferns are best left to the woods.

As the trail rose to the ridge, I walked into the clouds. This was great for atmospherics but the ruined the view from the overlook.  I did get one picture where you can vaguely make out the Shenandoah Valley.

The hike was 7.7 miles and that’s a comfortable distance for me. I didn’t feel all banged up like last weekend.

I was surprised to learn that it was raining heavily in DC. Sometimes you guess right. The Nats game started 90 minutes late.  Works for me.

There are some more pix on my Flickr page.

 

Bliss on Half Street

After riding to work and getting a decent weather report (for the first tie in a week) I decided to go to last night’s Nationals v. Padres baseball game. I scored some seats on the club level behind the Nats’ dugout and called Lily to work out logistics.

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I rode Little Nellie (passing some goslings along the way) about 4 miles to L’Enfant Plaza where I met Lily who had driven my car from home. I folded Little Nellie into the trunk, parked the car, and headed to the game on Metro. (I have yet to have a wretched experience on Metro despite all the bad news these past few years.) After five years of riding on beat up old trolley cars during college in Boston, I really appreciate the brand new subway cars on Metro. They are clean, well designed and quite.

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The weather was perfect. There was a pleasant breeze with temperatures in the high 60Fs. We ate dinner in the posh-ish Norfolk Southern Club. Pizza, french fries and beer. What can I say. We’re low rent.

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Nats ace no. 1 Mad Max Scherzer was on the mound throwing seeds to defenseless Padre batters. Other than a solo home run, they had no answer for him. He struck out 13. Our faves hit home runs. Trea Turner hit a laser over the center field fence to start the game. Later centerfielder Michael A. Taylor clubbed another even farther. Then came Bryce Harper. He hit a truly Ruthian clout to the upper deck in right field. Our seats were perfect for tracking it into the dark sky. It was one of the most bad ass home runs I’ve ever seen. (I can think of one in Montreal hit by Ken Henderson of the San Francisco Giants. And a bomb hit by Jim Ed Rice clear out of Fenway over the center field wall. That’s it.)

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As the game progressed, the crowd started chanting Max! Max! Max! It felt like the playoffs instead of a relatively meaningless May game. Scherzer lasted until the next to last out. When the acting manager walked out to the mount, he was roundly booed. Keep him in!! MAX! MAX! MAX! After hitting the next batter, it was clear that Max was gassed and a reliever was brought in. A screaming standing ovation greeted Max as he plodded to his dugout. He slowed and doffed his cap to the crowd.

The good guys won 5-1. Lily and I left through a crowd filled with smiles. As we passed the bike valet, I looked in to see if any of my #bikedc friends were there. I spotted Klarence and Lauren and hopped the barrier to say hello. After a brief chat and some massive hugs, I stopped to say hello to Poncho, whom I met at Friday Coffee Club a year or so ago. Nice guy.

So a great game with a #bikedc cherry on top. Not a bad way to spend a Friday night in May.

A Little Water Won’t Kill Ya

It rained last night. The passage to my backyard was a mud pit. It was drizzling as I, without a whole lot of thought, pulled Little Nellie out of the shed.

I wore rain gear fImage may contain: tree, plant, outdoor and natureor the ride to work. All was going well until I reached the Mount Vernon Trail. Normally, the river is to the right of the trail. Today, the trial was beneath the river. As I cleared the Dyke Marsh boardwalk, I hit about 40 yards of deep water. I’d guess it was 6 inches deep. The density of the water slowed me to a crawl and I pedaled through it getting my feet thoroughly soaked. I stopped to take a picture that doesn’t do it justice.

I hopped back on Little Nellie, pedaled 20 yards, and was deep in the soup again. Pedaling through this much water is hard work. I cleared that flood, had a 20-yard breather, then hit the next one. And the next one. And the next one. No lie. I was pedaling really hard as I hit the last one and the backwash from Little Nellie’s wee front wheel caused the water to splash up over my knees.

After another deep section north of Belle Haven Park,  I made it into Old Town without need for scuba gear.

Old Town, of course, is notorious for flooding and today it did not disappoint. Union Street (which includes the Mount Vernon Trail) Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, motorcycle and outdoorwas closed at King. Little Nellie posed for a picture. I watched a pick up drive through the water but decided not to press my luck especially with a police car in the distance.

I turned up one alley and over another and found myself on King just to the left of the water in the picture.

Free and clear, right? Wrong. I managed to avoid submersion for a couple of miles before hitting deep water twice near Daingerfield Island. The force of my bike through the flood again kicked water up over my knees.

Dang.

I really should have chosen a bike with bigger diameter wheels. I hope Little Nellie’s hubs are not completely messed up.

In the afternoon Doppler radar was showing a really nasty storm approaching. I ran into the No. 2 person at my agency who was carrying his motorcycle helmet. Good luck! Our admin assistant and I both told my boss to hit the road on his cargo bike. He rides into DC and he probably made it unscathed.

I, on the other hand, was scathed. I made it about 9 miles in decent shape. The good news was the flooding had receded. The bad news was I was heading into dark, dark clouds with wind and rain and thunder and lightning.

Oh my.

I rode through Belle Haven Park aware that at any time a limb could fall from one of the giant old trees along the trail. It had happened before but not today. South of the park I had to deal with the fact that my glasses were covered with rain drops and condensation. I could barely see to make my way.

There was nothing to do but pedal, so I did. A bicyclist zipped past me. How he could see was beyond my ken. As I went through the slalom south of Dyke Marsh branches with wet leaves slapped me in the face.

Pedal. Pedal.

All the while, lightning was flashing across the sky.

I followed a curve in the trail up and to the right. Out from behind an overhanging branch came a bicyclists. A woman on what looked like a beach cruiser. She was riding in a frenzy without rain gear and nearly collided with me. I veered off to my right and she flew by.

Sections of the trail now had run off from the adjacent parkway. Some of these were fairly high speed and gave me cause for concern. Would they sweep my wheels out from under me?

Nope. It’s good to be lucky.

Once I left the trail the rain subsided. There was still some thunder and lightning but it was not all that intense.

I rode across the front lawn, around the muddy side of the house, and down the small grassy decline to the shed. After opening the shed and getting the bike inside I started to wipe everything down with an old t-shirt. Then

BOOM!

A clap of thunder erupted directly overhead. The walls and the floor of the shed shook. I felt the vibration in my torso.

Double dang.

A little water won’t kill ya, but the thunder’s a bitch.

Aren’t You a Little Old for That Sort of Thing?

This fall I hope to ride to Key West Florida over the course of about 6 or 7 weeks. This would be a self-contained bike tour. I am in my early 60s and am starting to wonder whether I will be able to pull this off for much longer. (If I do, I am going cross country next year. So stay tuned.)

So yesterday I received an email from my friend Chanda. She is a goat scientist who lives in rural India. I am not making this up. She is one of the nicest people I have ever known. I am not making this up either.

Chanda’s email told me about an Australian man in his early 70s who is doing supported long-distance bike rides for charity. When Bob Montgomery was a youngster of 69 he rode from the Blue Mountains (west of Sydney) to Port Douglas way up north. It was a ride of a little over 1,900 miles. Dang.

Not to rest on his aging laurels, Mr. Montgomery rode from Perth to Sydney, a mere 2,360 miles two years later in 2015. If you know anything about Australian geography you’ll know this is an astounding feat for a young man. The Nullarbor Plain is not to be messed with.

A few days ago, our hero took off from Darwin in the north on his way to Perth in the southwest. This one is about 2,485 miles give or take a kilometer. Crikey!

Darwin to Perth

I feel like a complete sloth next to this guy. He’s doing these rides to raise money for Motor Neurone Disease and Huntington’s Disease.

I just can’t even…

Check his ride out on his website.

 

 

Swim to Work Day

Last Friday’s Bike to Work Day was such a success that we decided to hold Swim to Work Day today. It was difficult to dress for the rain. The temperature was 58F when I left home. So I decide to go with a water proof jacket with a hood. My bare legs got somewhat cold but no worries they were sore as hell from yesterday’s hike.

I am proud to say I did not run over any ducks or geese on my way to the office, but I cannot vouch for any earthworms.

Also, I want to that VDOT for aiming the storm drains from I-395 directly onto the Mount Vernon Trail. Nothing makes a rainy day wetter than riding through the waterfall from the highway above.

This is what my office looked like. (My jacket and shirt were hanging up across the room.)

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I didn’t bother with a shower. Seemed kind of redundant.

Quack.

 

Hiking to Loudon Heights

It was finally, finally time to get out of the city and into the woods. I’d been biking and baseballing and graduating and concerting for weeks and my brain needed a long solo hike in the woods.

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia sits at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. Alas, the Shenandoah gives it up and from here to the Chesapeake Bay the river is known as the Potomac. Just southeast of Harpers Ferry the Potomac passes through mountains. On the northern side of the river there are two overlooks. I hiked 19 miles in one day to check them out. Today I explored the overlook on the southern side of the river on a ridge known as Loudon Heights. I got the idea for this hike from a fellow blogger who did a shorter, steeper version of this hike in January 2016. Her hike began in Harpers Ferry, crossed the Shenandoah and climbed up to the ridge about 1 1/2 miles from the overlook.

It was my intent to do this same hike but then I found another hike that was longer and more gradual. This hike begins at Keys Pass 5 1/2 miles to the south of the overlook. It follows the Appalachian Trail for about 4 miles along the ridge line then switches to the Loudon Heights Trail to get to the overlook.

The skies were overcast. Temperatures were in high 50Fs when I set out. There was so much green. The path was somewhat muddy. Then it became rocky. Then smooth. Then rockier. Then smooth. Then ludicrously rocky. Then not so much. Did I mention that it was rocky.

The AT is rocky. How anybody with a full pack gets through the Virginia portion of the trail without breaking an ankle is beyond me. I am a tenderfoot. Literally. I hate rocky trails. I came to a kind of truce with this one out of necessity. There are so many rocks that you have to look down nearly the entire time you are hiking. You lose track of time. I couldn’t believe that 90 minutes had passed since the start. Focusing on the rocks is meditative, annoyingly so. It had a rather interesting benefit for me. I noticed that my tenderfootedness was caused by me tensing my feet up as I walked among the rocks. Walking on them instead and focusing on keeping my feet relaxed made for much easier walking. I didn’t exactly end the hike with happy feet but I managed to enjoy what would otherwise have been a miserable experience.

Since I was spending so much time looking down, I had to consciously stop and take in the scenery. Most of the hike is through a forest on a ridge line. And I looked up at the through the canopy to the clouds above. Ahh.

Being at the top of things also meant that many old trees succumbed to winds. The trail is obstructed by a few dozen downed giants. They are easy enough to get past though.

For the first 3 1/2 miles I didn’t see or hear a single person. Not one. For the next 2 miles I did encounter a few people here and there but, thankfully, none of them were loud.

Getting to the overlook actually involves hiking down from the ridge. When I got there I had it all to myself for about 3 minutes. I was all set to just park my butt on a rock for a half hour. Then another hiker showed up. Yeah, well….

After taking some pictures of Harpers Ferry (the view of town is much better from Maryland Heights, by the way) I started back. Good thing I left. More and more people were heading my way. I group of young men came by. The last of them was actually talking business. I resisted the urge to dope slap him.

When I got back on the AT, I started encountering serious backpackers heading north. These dudes were in tip top hiking shape. A solo hiker and I stopped to chat. He was a large human, 6 foot 4 or so and easily 250 pounds. He was hiking 20 miles or so today on his way to Harpers Ferry.  His pack looked hefty. He was all smiles. Nice guy.

The last three miles were a bit of a slog. I really need to learn to ease into these things; 11 miles was a bit much. I stopped to stretch my hamstrings from time to time. The last half mile was mercifully light on rocks and was nearly flat. I needed that.

Unlike most hikes I’ve done, I had very good cell service on this one so I instagrammed my ass off. I posted all the pictures on my Flickr page.

Bike to Work Day in DC – Recap

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I woke up early. I was having leg cramps. Not good. The dinner concert we went to last night did not serve free water, so we drank beer. Dumb on all counts.

After walking around a bit and drinking a pint of watered down orange juice, my cramps subsided and I was off about 1/2 hour ahead of schedule on my last Bike to Work Day. (Please note the capitalization. I am still biking to work for another three months. Y’all can’t get rid of me that easily.)

Pit stop MV.JPGMy ride to work is about 15 miles. I decided to take the longImage may contain: sky, tree, ocean, plant, outdoor and nature way and stopped 1 1/2 miles from home at my first pit stop of the day. This one was located near the Mount Vernon Trail and was staffed by a couple of guys from my local bike shop, Spokes Etc.‘s Belle View location. At the pit stop, I ran into Nancy Duley who lives near me. We had a good chat. Having already eaten breakfast, I turned down the free muffins and bananas and other goodies and headed toward Alexandria. Along the way I stopped to take in the sun rising over the river. (Wanna know why I bike to work. The picture tells it all.)

In Old Town I stopped at my designated pit stop. (I had switched at the last minute to avoid the lonImage may contain: 1 person, outdoorg lines in Rosslyn. ) Good move. The lines were short. I picked up a t-shirt and a water bottle. Then I popped two donut holes in my mouth. They were from the aptly named Sugar Shack. Big Ed was also there and the two of us rode with massive sucrose buzzes to Crystal City.

Once I dismounted I came to realize the the relative humidity was somewhere north of New Orleans in August. Dang.

The Crystal City pit stop was very well attended. I saw several people I knew including Kathy and Sam (that’s her on the left below). Once again I passed up the free food and coffee.  Hot coffee was not looking really appealing as the sweat poured off me.Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, outdoor

I left Ed to his socializing and headed to Rosslyn. Rather than cut back over to the Mount Vernon Trail, which I assumed would be chock-a-block full of bike commuters, I rode the streets through Crystal City, past Long Bridge Park, and around the Pentagon. I picked up Route 110 with its highway traffic and rode its broad paved shoulder until I exited at Arlington Cemetery.

There was nobody on the path around Arlington Cemetery which made for swift passage to Rosslyn. The streets of Rosslyn were packed with cars but I managed to weave through them. I decide to check out the Rosslyn pit stop conveniently located in the Intersection of Doom which was made more better by construction on the nearby bike trail.

The Rosslyn pit stop was packed. There must have been over 100 bikes parked and many, many more in the hands of their owners meandering about. I was glad I switched stops, even though Rosslyn had the best swag of all four that I visited.

I ran into Lawyer Mike, who, like Big Ed, I know from Friday Coffee Club. But for passes on the trail during commutes, I hadn’t seen him in ages. So it was good to catch up.

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I took off for work. When I got to the office I gathered up my co-workers who had ridden to work. There were five of us, but only four because one of my co-workers who is new to this bike to work thing, missed her pit stop. That’s them in the picture at the top of the blog.

The picture does not include our boss who rode his kids to school (as he does every day) and a former co-worker who works on another floor. So my office did itself proud today.

The interview I did yesterday ran on WAMU  (a local NPR station) today. I was included in the text but did not make the audio version. There’s good reason. Ian, yet another Friday Coffee Clubber, was the lead subject. He commutes almost twice as far as I do. I can’t even….

After work I rode to Adams Morgan in DC for a Bike to Work Day party hosted by WABA. They mentioned something about free beer and pizza and I was a goner. I arrived under threatening skies. As I went to lock my bike, rain fell. Cold rain. It cut through the humidity splendidly.

I met a half dozen people at the party. My fusiform gyrus was given a major work out. I still remember Rachel, Lisa, Grace, Eric, and, I think,…, well, I forgot the other guy. And I know I’ve met him before. Ack.

The highlight of the event was the ovation we gave Nelle Pierson, who had just finished her last day on the job with the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. Suffice it to say, there was an awful lot of love and admiration in the room.

I finished the evening with a ride home under threatening skies. Jeanne who was at the Crystal City pit stop and I rode back to Virginia together. Once on the south side of the Potomac, we found ourselves riding through clouds of flying bugs. Jeanne veered off north of Old Town. As I made my way through Belle Haven Park the clouds of bugs intensified. It was totally gross for about 1/2 mile. Then the swarms cleared and all that was left was the circle of light ahead of my bike. Four miles of riding in the night with a few flashes of heat lightning for good effect.

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Bike to work day. 14 hours from start to finish. My last one. Well played BikeDC. Well played.

Many, many thanks to all the volunteers and staff who worked on this event. Also, thanks to the sponsors for donating all the goodies.

 

 

Bike to Work Day Eve

Tomorrow is Bike to Work Day. It’s always interesting to ride to work with convoys and stop for freebies at a pit stop. I need to add to my t-shirt collection too. I’ve been posting pix of my BTWD shirts all week. I have many more: two kelly greens, one each dirty green, red and blue. I think my red one is in Thailand. Don’t ask.

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Anyway, I am planning on riding to the Old Town Pit Stop for a t-shirt and other goodies. Then on to work. I will probably bypass the Rosslyn stop altogether even though it’s two blocks from work. I may even take an alternate route to work to avoid the work zone congestion at the pit stop which is located ironically at the Intersection of Doom.

After work I will probably ride into the city to celebrate with WABA. Tomorrow is Nelle Pierson’s last day as WABA’s Deputy Director.  This is huge because she is awesome.

This morning I gave a brief BTWD interview to a Mikaela Lefrak from WAMU, a local NPR station. I don’t know if she will use any of it but it was fun to do.

It’s about 90F degrees outside, the perfect July evening for a May ride home. Time to roll.